City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

The cover of this book caught my eye. Flipping through the book, I realized that it revolves around the New York City theater world during the 1940s. I looked into the author and discovered that this Elizabeth Gilbert was the same author who wrote Eat, Pray, Love, among other fiction and non-fiction titles.

City of Girls  by Elizabeth Gilbert tells the story of Vivian Morris. After receiving a letter from a male friend’s daughter asking for Vivian to finally explain to her what her relationship really was to her father, Vivian uses City of Girls as a long-form letter to the woman. Ninety-five-year-old Vivian looks back on her youth with a mix of sadness, regret, pleasure, and passion. Through this book, Vivian learns about her body, sexuality, and female promiscuity. She learns how to heal from various wrongs done to her and wrongs that she has committed.

In the summer of 1940, nineteen-year-old Vivian Morris arrives in New York to live with her aunt. Having been kicked out of Vassar College, Vivian, along with her suitcase and sewing machine, is relegated to New York by her parents who just don’t know what to do with her. Luckily for Vivian, she soon finds lodging and employment at her Aunt Peg’s dilapidated theatre, the Lily Playhouse, as the seamstress. Vivian learned how to sew from her grandmother and is good at making something out of nothing. By just looking at someone’s body type or looking at an outfit/type of fabric, Vivian can figure out what is wrong, what needs to be changed, and what would look best on someone.

Vivian quickly becomes the talk of the showgirl community as word circulates that she can make glamorous costumes out of seemingly nothing. The longer she stays at the Lily Playhouse, the more interesting characters she meets. Vivian meets showgirls, sexy actors, a famous actress, a disgruntled writer, and her aunt’s friend who serves as the stage manager trying to keep the Lily Playhouse alive. Vivian’s new life brings another new and exciting chapter of discovery: sex. Vivian discovers what makes her happy and that she has the power to make herself happy no matter what other people think.

When Vivian makes a personal mistake that threatens to ruin both her personal and professional lives, she is forced to start a new life again. The consequences of her actions will take her years to unravel and understand. The new life she makes for herself will lead her down a path she never imagined for herself: a life where she understands what she actually wants and how she has to behave/act/live in order to have it. Vivian also meets the love of her life while she is making a new name for herself. This love is completely different than anything else she has experienced before, but it proves to change her the most.

City of Girls is a glittery and glamorous look at ninety-five years of life. Vivian is able to look back at her life and acknowledge how the actions that she made changed the course of her life forever. Her life would have shifted to a more traditional role and been completely different if she had chosen one different path. Vivian was never afraid of what life threw at her. She was able to live an autonomous life that was not available to many women who grew up during the same time period as her.


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Meet Cute by Helena Hunting

Some days (or weeks or months), all I want to read are romance novels. I’m deep in the midst of several romance reads right now. These books serve as a major deviation from my usual reads of twisty crime thrillers and are a necessary light read for me when I just need a break.

I noticed the cutesy cover of Helena Hunting’s latest romance novel peeking out from the new shelves a few weeks ago and was intrigued enough to start it.  I devoured this book in less than 3 days. Such a fun light read with charming characters! Meet Cute by Helena Hunting tells the story of a couple’s long road to a happily-ever-after with a pinch of Hollywood magic when a famous hunky heartthrob bumps into his ultimate fangirl again after years apart.

Kailyn Flowers knows exactly what she wants and exactly what she needs to do to get it. Described by friends and family as very controlled, rational, and calm under any circumstances, Kailyn has one glaring exception that leaves her breathless: Daxton Hughes. Daxton is the former teen actor that she had a complete and total crush on when she was younger. In law school, Kailyn believes herself to be in control until she literally runs into Daxton and the two are left sprawled on the ground. Kailyn reverts back to her fangirl self and may have mortified herself by professing (loudly) her undying love for Daxton. After that situation ended, Kailyn thought she’d never see him again, but oddly enough their meet cute leads to a friendship and a sort of friendly rivalry that helps them both survive law school. Their friendship takes a huge hit at the end of school however when Daxton betrays Kailyn in a way for which she will never forgive him.

Flash forward years and Kailyn has an established job at a reputable law firm that gives her joy. One day, a new client comes into the office and she is floored. Daxton Hughes has walked back into her life and he desperately needs her help. Dax is now guardian to his thirteen-year-old sister and is very overwhelmed. Kailyn finds herself drawn into his messy life. Once meeting Dax’s younger sister, Kailyn knows she would do anything to make sure this struggling girl and her older brother find a positive way to manage their new normal.

Dax and Kailyn meet frequently to discuss work matters. While these meetings are initially chilly, they quickly turn friendly. Once Dax’s sister starts meddling, these friendly and benign meetings turn into flirty charming dinner dates that leave the both of them yearning for more. Kailyn is hesitant to go further because despite the chemistry palpable in the air, how can she let Daxton back into her life when he has hurt her in the past? Their complicated past and even more complicated present may be enough to keep the two apart.


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Star-Crossed by Minnie Darke

Do you read your star signs? Do you follow what your stars tell you? I’ll admit I sometimes check my star sign (Gemini over here), but it’s not something I do every day. None of my friends really live by their astrological signs either, so when I read Minnie Darke’s debut novel, Star-Crossed, I was pleased to see that I was going to be learning more about horoscopes throughout this novel.

Star-Crossed by Minnie Darke tells the story of childhood sweethearts Justine and Nick. Justine is a major skeptic and a Sagittarius, while Nick is an Aquarius  and an astrological devotee. Specifically Nick is a true believer and follower of the horoscopes by his favorite astrologer in a local magazine. After bumping into each other, Justine realizes that Nick’s favorite astrologer works for the same paper that she works for! Moving up as a coffee runner, Justine finds herself with more responsibilities at the newspaper. One of those responsibilities: inputting in the horoscopes for each issue.

Justine and Nick continuously run into each other, leading Justine to believe that the two will eventually fall in love with each other. Nick’s actions continuously prove otherwise. He IS NOT falling in love with Justine. Feeling torn up about this, Justine decides to tweak his horoscope in order to lean Nick more towards her loving arms. By changing Aquarius, Justine is changing fate. What Justine fails to realize is that Nick is not the only astrological devotee of her newspaper. Other Aquarius are making very important life decisions and changes based on Justine’s new horoscopes.

This novel takes fate and destiny and turns them upside down by charting Justine’s meddling throughout months of the newspaper’s horoscopes. By discussing horoscopes, Darke shows readers how going through life on your own is overwhelming, so finding friendship and help through the stars helps people make choices that are hard to figure out when it feels like you are alone.


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The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

Tiffy needs a place to live, now, but her low-paying editorial assistant job doesn’t exactly allow for posh digs. Or anyplace that’s habitable really. So, against the advice of friends, she takes a flatshare. It’s a nice apartment in a great location in central London and she can actually afford the rent, what’s not to like? Ok, her new flatmate is a guy and there’s, um, only one bed but! He works nights as a pallative care nurse and spends the weekends at his girlfriends’ place so they’ll never see each other. Right? Great! Problem solved!

Leon needs some extra cash. He loves his job but it takes most of his energy and time so a second job isn’t the answer. He’s almost never at his flat except to sleep during the day so why not share the space? It’s a great plan! Leon’s girlfriend shows the potential roomie the flat and assures Leon that Tiffy is dull and unattractive. Perfect! Leon doesn’t even have to meet the flatmate, it’s all tidy and anonymous and great! Except, Tiffy brings some of her things to the flat – which, ok, to be expected – but they’re bright and girly and the opposite of dull. Huh.

Then the post-it notes begin. At first it’s formal and impersonal – “Help yourself to the leftover cookies!” – but pretty soon their notes become friendlier and bits of their personalities shine through. Tiffy is bright and funny and optimistic and Leon is kind and patient. Of course, inevitably, they run into each other, in the flesh. Literally. Sparks fly. Tiffy is not dull and unattractive. Leon has recently broken up with his girlfriend. Can Tiffy and Leon move from flatmates to friends to something more?

The Flatshare is a fun romance. The final outcome is pretty much inevitable but the path these two take is interesting and adds a lot to the story. There is the shadow of domestic abuse (NOT between Tiffy and Leon) and the long term damage it causes, staying loyal to someone when everyone else has doubts, taking a risk and walking through that door, opening yourself up to love again. Leon and Tiffy are great characters that you’ll root for, and their supporting cast are fun and interesting. Plus, it’s set in London. Blimey! What’s not to like?

One Day in December by Josie Silver

This book caught my eye when it popped up as a Reese Witherspoon x Hello Sunshine Book Club Pick. Seeing that there was a wait list, I decided to hold out and wait until it came out on OverDrive. Just this last week, I stumbled upon this title again as available. I hurriedly checked it out and started reading. I devoured this title in less than two days!

One Day in December by Josie Silver may be in the fiction section, but it definitely is full of romance as two of the main characters feel the constant push and pull of attraction throughout their lives over a ten year history.

Laurie is on her way home when she spots a mysterious man at a bus stop. Through the foggy and misty window on the blustery snowy December day, Laurie is floored by the instant attraction that courses through her. When he lifts his head up and their eyes meet, something jolts through her body and she knows that he is the one for her. Stymied by indecision, Laurie is at a loss of what to do. Just as she’s gathering her courage, her bus drives away.

Thoroughly believing that she and bus boy are fated to find each other again, Laurie and her best friend Sarah spend the next year scouring every conceivable place in London looking for him. She becomes even more obsessed thinking that she sees him in crowds, in cafes, at different bus stops, anywhere and everywhere. Her journey to find bus boy comes to a screeching halt at their annual Christmas party when Sarah finally brings her new boyfriend to show off for Laurie. As they are introduced, Laurie feels that jolt pass through her again. The man that Sarah has been gushing about for months is Jack. Jack is bus boy. Laurie is understandably devastated.

Not wanting to destroy Sarah’s happiness, Laurie and Jack enter into an unspeaking pact to never tell Sarah that the two have met before. As a result, Laurie, Sarah, and Jack live the next ten years somewhat normally. They go through heartbreaks, intense friendships, new romances, family troubles, and new careers, all while fate works behind the scenes to guide them where they need to be.

Told through snippets of different days throughout the ten years that pass after Laurie first saw Jack, One Day in December tells the story of how love changes and morphs as we grow older. While Laurie may not believe in love at first sight, this novel works to prove that fate has a hand in every decision that we make and ultimately will lead us towards happiness in many different forms.


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Sadie by Courtney Summers

I spend a lot of time in the car either driving to work or driving to explore. This means that I have so many hours to fill that the music on the radio starts to repeat itself. I have learned to spend this time listening to podcasts and audiobooks instead. Looking at award-winning book lists, I found Sadie by Courtney Summers: a book that is presented like a true crime podcast. This sounded perfect to me.

Sadie by Courtney Summers highlights the story of Sadie and her sister Mattie. When thirteen-year-old Mattie goes missing from her small Colorado town and is eventually found murdered, her nineteen-year-old sister Sadie is devastated. Sadie has been raising Mattie by herself for years ever since their mother left. While she had some help from her surrogate grandma, Sadie took on the bulk of the responsibilities associated with her and Mattie’s welfare. When Sadie all of a sudden disappears about a year after Mattie is found, her surrogate grandma reaches out for help.

West McCray is a radio personality who has been slowly making his way across the country to work on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America. While stopped in one such town, he overhears a local talking about Sadie’s disappearance. Shortly after, West is contacted by Sadie’s surrogate grandma and finds himself drawn into the case. West decides to turn his examination into the disappearance of Sadie and the murder of Mattie into a true crime podcast called ‘The Girls’.

When Sadie runs away, rumors abound about why she left and where she’s going. Told in the alternating perspectives of both Sadie as she runs away and West’s podcast about her disappearance, readers are able to follow this story from both points of view. While Sadie has run away in order to track down her younger sister Mattie’s killer, West and the rest of her family don’t have access to that information and struggle to find out why she’s gone, where she is, and what has happened to her.

I enjoyed this book as it combines three of my favorite things: true crime, podcasts, and audiobooks. After looking at different reviews, flipping through the print book, and listening to the audiobook, I agree with others when they say that, if given the option, you should listen to the audiobook. By doing so, you are privy to the little audio clues present in the podcast sections that you would miss out on if you only read the book. Give it a try and let me know what you think!


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Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

What do you do when you fall in love with the last person you ever expect to? And they live thousands of miles (including an ocean) away in another country? How do you stay true to your homeland and your family and still create a life with someone that has become incredibly important to you? Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston attempts to answer these questions and lots more in this charming, funny, fast-paced romance.

Alex is the son of the first woman President of the United States. He is just finishing up his graduate degree and is eager to join his Mother’s re-election campaign. He has long mapped out a path of a political career for himself and is anxious to begin. Henry is a Prince, literally. He is the grandson of the Queen of England and fulfills many royal duties, part of the long tradition of his family.

There is animosity between Alex and Henry from the first time they meet, a feeling that is confirmed and intensified with each meeting until they come to blows at the wedding of Henry’s older brother which causes Alex to fall into (and ruin) the magnificent royal wedding cake. International diplomacy steps in, in the form of their respective families PR teams, and the two are forced to spend time together to assure the world that the sons of the two superpowers are actually ok with each other.

Of course, once they spend time together, they (reluctantly) begin to like each other, become friends and then confidants. They are both in unique positions, their roles in their families to be unfailingly supportive and are always under intense scrutiny. Their connection grows into attraction and love and now they have the added stress of keeping their romantic relationship a secret. Alex’s mother is facing a difficult re-election and Henry’s family will not approve of a gay son. Inevitably, the secret is leaked and all hell breaks loose. Through it all, Alex and Henry struggle to stay true to each other and their values and to find a way to be together.

I don’t typically read romance novels, but this one has been getting a lot of buzz and has great reviews and I can see why. It is snappy and fun and moves at a breakneck speed. The characters, both the main couple and the various supporting cast, are all appealing and relate-able (Well, mostly. One lives in the White House and the other lives at Kensington Palace!) In many ways this is a typical romance novel. A couple meet and hate each other; couple spends time together and start to like each other; couple falls in love; couple must overcome one or more obstacles to be together. The big difference of course, is that the couple in question are homosexual although this is treated as mostly incidental (but not completely without political consequences) There is a lot of politics in this book – all of the characters are fictional of course, but the issues they face are many that are prominent in today’s political arena – immigration (Alex and his sister are half-Mexican, their father being from Mexico), marital status (the US President is a divorced woman), gender equality, duty to country, conservative vs liberal (in both the US and England). If politics are not your cup of tea, you might want to skim over some parts. Otherwise don’t miss fun romance!

The Accidental Beauty Queen by Teri Wilson

I grew up in a small town where beauty pageants happened every summer. Moving away to college, I discovered that spending your summer watching beauty pageants was not the norm. I honestly had not thought much of the pageant life again until recently when I discovered The Accidental Beauty Queen  sitting on the new shelf at work. The premise was intriguing, so I decided to give it a try!

The Accidental Beauty Queen by Teri Wilson tells the story of two identical twins. Charlotte and Ginny Gorman look alike, but that is where their similarities end. Charlotte is an elementary school librarian who absolutely loves her job. Being a librarian allows her to spend her day around books and help her students. Her twin sister Ginny is a beauty pageant contestant. Building her brand through various social media platforms, mainly Instagram, Ginny works hard to fill their mother’s beauty pageant shoes(not literally). Their mother died when both Ginny and Charlotte were young and Ginny chose to honor her by competing in the same pageant she had competed in before.

Ginny is a repeat beauty pageant contestant, someone who has been after a crown for as long as Charlotte came remember. Her ultimate goal? Being crowned Miss American Treasure. Charlotte may begrudgingly support her sister, but she still doesn’t understand the appeal. Charlotte accompanies Ginny to her latest beauty pageant because she’s promised a week of vacation with Harry Potter World close at hand. Staying in the same room with Ginny, Charlotte is privy to some behind the scenes looks as Ginny prepares. Ginny is pretty sure she has this pageant in the bag.

It all comes crashing down when Ginny has a severe allergic reaction to the dinner she shares with Charlotte the night before the competition begins. After Charlotte rushes Ginny to an urgent care (under cover and in secret, of course), they both realize that Ginny will not be back to her normal beauty queen self for at least three days. Those three days are the bulk of the pageant! At her wit’s end, Ginny begs Charlotte to fill in for her for those three days. Her doing so would allow Ginny the time she needs to heal, but she would be able to swoop in at the end for the finals. Reluctantly agreeing to help, Charlotte soon finds herself thrown headfirst into full-blown pageant life. Ginny gives Charlotte a makeover full of push-up bras, glittery pageant gowns, hair extensions, false eyelashes, and full faces of makeup. As Ginny tries to prepare Charlotte for everything that goes into a pageant, Charlotte quickly finds out that there is way more to this way of life than crowns and gowns.

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

Have you ever gone to a health resort? Or even taken a weekend at a spa? As someone whose pampering extends solely to pedicures and manicures, the idea of a spa or health resort sounds heavenly. When I discovered that Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty was set at a health resort with a twist, I decided to give this book a try.

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty follows the lives of nine people through ten days at a health resort. Each person gathered at the health resort is there for a variety of reasons. Some are there to lose weight, some to fix their marriages, some to figure out a new way to live, while others are there for reasons that they don’t want to tell others. Even the staff have secrets to hide: both about themselves and the health resort. When setting foot into Tranquillum House, guests are told that this health resort may require them to do things that they aren’t comfortable with. This isn’t your traditional health resort, so they are going to have to work hard to get the results for which they are looking. In the end though, it will be worth the effort(or so they are told).

While each characters is presented somewhat separately in this novel and readers are privy to sections from each one’s point of view, Moriarty chooses to lay the bulk of her exposition on the character of Frances Welty. Frances is a best-selling romance novelist whose latest book is not doing so well. Struggling to figure out what she should do career-wise and simultaneously reeling from a disastrous broken heart, Frances has booked herself into Tranquillum House and is unsure of what to expect. Upon meeting her fellow guests, Frances is immediately intrigued. Using her writerly instincts, Frances tries to figure out the reasons that each has come to Tranquillum House. The person who fascinates her the most is not one of the quests though: it is the director and owner of Tranquillum House itself. Frances finds herself wondering if she really can solve/cure/make better/provide all the answers for Frances and the rest of the guests. Doubts continue to niggle throughout Frances’s stay and leave her wondering if she should stick out her stay or voice her concerns to the other guests. Could the other guests have the same concerns or are they content to follow the staff through the activities planned for each day? Frances will have to figure out a way to connect and figure out what is really happening at Tranquillum House.


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The Other Woman by Sandie Jones

Starting a new relationship means that you are not just in a relationship with your new partner, but that you have to build relationships with their family and friends. Sometimes those relationships are positive, while others start rocky and only get worse. In Sandie Jones’ new novel, The Other WomanJones examines the relationships that exist between a woman and the intense bond she shares with the man she loves.

The Other Woman is a twisty thriller that centers around how far someone is willing to go to get what they want. After a bad breakup, Emily has finally met the man of her dreams. Adam is perfect and everything she has ever wanted in a man. Emily thinks that her life couldn’t be any more perfect until she meets Adam’s mom, Pammie. Right from the start, Emily notices the odd and slightly off relationship that Pammie and Adam share. Thinking that Pammie is just overprotective of her son, Emily tries to work things out. Quickly things spiral out of control. Pammie is overbearing, overprotective, and, worst of all, extremely critical of everything Emily wears, says, or does around her. Nothing Emily does could ever be right. No one else notices Pammie’s bizarre behavior though. Mentioning this to Adam only serves to anger him and tarnish his mother’s perfect reputation in his eyes. Emily decides to stay the course.

Adam and Emily’s relationship progresses and flourishes as they begin to make plans to spend the rest of their lives together. Emily and Pammie’s relationship? Still rocky. With each new milestone Emily and Adam reach, Pammie seems to lose control even more. When Emily finally secures a forever relationship with Adam, she quickly learns that Pammie will do anything to keep her and Adam apart. Pammie wants Emily gone forever. Emily wants Adam forever. Those wants are not compatible. These two formidable women face off against each other in a battle of wills that will leave their relationships and lives in tatters.


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